Three ways in which football is helping to recycle plastic

Real Madrid's players attend a training session at the Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 12 February 2019. Real Madrid will face Ajax in their UEFA Champions League round of 16 soccer match on 13 February 2019. [EPA-EFE/ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN]

Organisers of sports events are increasingly aware of the environmental impact such events have and are making efforts to become more sustainable, including by reducing and reusing plastics.

Every single action counts in the fight against climate change and football clubs do not want to lag behind. Therefore, stadiums are teams are working towards reducing their carbon footprint.

From replacing lighting systems with better performing led to reusing rainwater to irrigate the pitch, managers are innovating to make the stadiums more sustainable. Waste generation and management are one of the main challenges when thousands of people get together in the same place.

Forest Green Rovers, the world's greenest football club

A vegan menu, bamboo-made t-shirts, an organic pitch, a stadium 100% powered with renewable energy… in less than a decade, the Forest Green Rovers has become the first carbon-neutral club in the world. EURACTIV interviewed its manager.

A second life for stadium seats

In 2017, the more than 53,000 stadium seats in the Johan Cruijff ArenA were replaced. Confronted with the question of what to do with them, the managers of the stadium conducted a study and eventually decided to sell the chairs.

After more than 21 years, the seats are definitely valuable for Ajax supporters. Parts of them were therefore sold and the club used the money to support the Ajax Foundation that carries out charity work.

MEIS, a well-recognised firm of architects specialized in sports venues, recently unveiled a new design of fully recycled seats. MEIS has designed the Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium (Everton FC plays) or the Stadio Della Roma.

The ‘Sea seats’ are made using 10% of plastic collected from the ocean while the rest comes from other sources of this material.

“Recycling this plastic is expensive and technologically challenging so it is absolutely necessary for us to look for ways to make recycling economically feasible if we are to preserve our vital marine habitats,” the firm explained.

In the city of Pontedera, in Italy, all seats of the stadium are recycled. The plastic used to produce them was coming from the differentiate collection of the city’s waste itself, therefore ensuring a zero-km circular economy scheme.

Fans back call for phasing out single-use plastics from UK stadiums

A survey conducted by YouGov shows football fans support for environmental NGOs’ call to clubs in the UK top four divisions to eliminate single-use plastics from their stadiums. 

Ocean plastic t-shirts

Plastics represent 80% of the garbage in ocean waters according to the European Commission. While the only way to reduce it is by cutting out this material, there are many initiatives aimed at cleaning the water and reusing the waste. One of them is turning plastic into clothes.

In 2018, sports clothes brand Adidas partnered with environmental organisation Parley for the Oceans. The firm designed a kit entirely made out of recycled plastic collected from the oceans for professional football team Real Madrid.

The objective is, on the one hand, to prove that recycled material can be used in the mainstream manufacturing process but also to raise awareness of plastic pollution. Joining forces with Real Madrid allows amplifying the message.

Adidas has committed to using recycled plastic from the ocean in their whole line by 2024.

From beer cups to plastic pitch

Russia hosted the World Cup in 2018 where thousands of people enjoyed the matches… and drank a few beers. In total, 3.2 million cups of beer were taken home as a souvenir but 50,000 were given a second life.

Budweiser – the official sponsor of the tournament – and the World Cup local organising committee partnered to turn the cups into a fully recycled plastic football pitch by the Sochi stadium. The brewer has pledged that every bottle of beer it produces will be powered by renewable energy by 2025.

As the Euro 2020 approaches, the European Commission and UEFA are joining forces to promote environmentally friendly initiatives in the hosting stadiums and therefore make the tournament, which will for the first time be played in 12 European countries, more sustainable.

EU will not ban artificial turf pitches but could impose restrictions

The European Union will not ban artificial turf pitches, at least yet, but the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) is looking at alternatives, as this material is an important source of microplastics.

[Zoran Radosavljevic]


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